21 May Puerto Rico: Rebuilding Hope
I just returned from a place that has the longest blackout in US history. Can you guess where that is? Puerto Rico, where many citizens have been without power for over seven months, since Hurricane Maria hit last fall.
Nine men from Grace Church worked with Convoy of Hope, which has been partnering with a local pastor (Pastor Elvis, . . . seriously) to rebuild homes in the mountain area of Toa Alta. It would be easy for us to look at Puerto Rico and make a list of all the problems — fragile infrastructure, unemployment, health issues, substandard housing, and a hurricane season (which begins in few weeks) that threatens to wipe out any progress made in the past seven months. But, a list like that actually misdiagnoses the real problem.
I’ve been reading through Jonah, and in chapter 1 there was a big storm. Now, I’m not at all claiming that Hurricane Maria was an act of discipline by God. Instead, I notice that sailors’ response to the storm:
“Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. . . .” (Jonah 1:5)
What they did — jettisoning the cargo — was probably helpful, and it required sacrifice. But it wasn’t their biggest problem. Their circumstance wasn’t their biggest struggle. So what was? See the rest of verse 5:
“But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold.”
Jonah was below deck, maybe where the cargo was supposed to be. It’s like Jonah and the cargo had swapped places! The sailors were throwing the cargo in the sea instead of Jonah. Their problem was Jonah’s sin, but they tried to manage their circumstances.
The people of Puerto Rico have challenging circumstances; they do have a lot of problems. And we need to feel compassion for them as Jesus did (Matthew 9:36), and we need to take action (James 2:14). But we need to remember that their biggest problem is the same as my biggest problem, and yours. Our sin, our proud unbelief, our failure to obey Jesus — these are our biggest issues. And if that’s true, then what the Puerto Rican people need, beyond a change of their circumstances, is the hope of the gospel.
At the worship service on Sunday, Pastor Elvis encouraged his congregation, “The people out there need you to shine God’s light.” And the same encouragement is for us, too.
Pray for Puerto Rico. Pray for our brothers and sisters who are laboring to rebuild their homes. Pray that they would rest in the hope of the gospel. And pray that they would share their hope with their unbelieving neighbors, who are living in darkness — spiritually and even literally.
“For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)
Joey eats oatmeal every day for breakfast. He also wants to warn you that his daughter now is eligible to drive, and it doesn’t help that he was her instructor. Joey attends the Downtown campus.